On January 31, 2008, the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) filed its final submissions in the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, citing concerns about the lack of due process. The WSO was given leave to protect the reputational interests of the Sikh community, and to comment on all aspects of the terms of Reference.
In an effort to bring closure for the families of the victims, and all those affected by the Air India tragedy, the WSO has been asking for a public inquiry into the bombing of Air India Flight 182, since at least 1987.
"When this Commission of Inquiry was struck in 2006, the WSO, and much of the Sikh community, hoped that many of the unanswered questions about the botched investigation would be addressed, so that a tragedy of this kind could be prevented in the future," said Gurpreet Singh Bal, President of WSO.
As the only Sikh organization with status at this Inquiry, and the only Intervener who has regularly attended the Air India hearings, the WSO has played a unique role.
"The WSO has taken its role seriously, and has endeavoured throughout these proceedings to ensure that the voice of the Sikh community is heard on all aspects of the Terms of Reference," said lawyer Pradeep Chand, co-counsel for the WSO at the Inquiry.
Although WSO was given the mandate to protect the reputational interests of the Sikh community, it has not been allowed to have any meaningful voice at the Inquiry, thus effectively preventing the WSO from fulfilling its assigned and accepted public responsibility.
Lead counsel, Palbinder Kaur Shergill, said, "In a public inquiry, it is critical that not only justice be done, but justice be seen to be done. We have grave concerns that, with respect to the Sikh community's interests at least, a full opportunity was not given to address significant issues surrounding the Air India investigation." In their 27 page submission, Shergill and Chand cite numerous concerns about the manner in which the Inquiry process has been conducted, and the reluctance of the Commission to hear relevant and important testimony.
"Everyone is anxiously awaiting the final report of the Commissioner. It is hoped that this Inquiry process will put to rest much of the misinformation about the Sikh community, and help lift the cloud of suspicion that it has lived under for over two decades," said Gurpreet Singh Bal.
The focus is now on the Commissioner to see if he can effectively do justice by making recommendations in the second part of his report which are fair and balanced and bring closure to the victims' families, as well as to all those effected by this tragedy, including the Sikh community.
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Gian Singh Sandhu, Senior Policy Advisor, Tel. 250-305-2440, email: Gian@JackpineGroup.com